Kaan Terzioğlu, Turkcell CEO
Throughout my career I have, in one way or another – as a consultant, a vendor, and now as CEO at Turkcell – been in prime position to observe the state of the telco industry. And I can tell you this was not always an easy thing to behold: I lived through the digital economy boom, and saw all manner of companies build billions of dollars in value for themselves, while telcos often stood almost stationary – sometimes struggling even to grow above inflation.
Thankfully those days are long behind us. The rise of digital identity as a service, and in particular Mobile Connect, helps to change all that entirely: it enables us, the operators, to make any and every digital business own. This is precisely where our future lies: With traffic management, credentials management and mobile payments, we are able to monetise our relationship not only with the individual consumers; but also with content and service providers, merchants – in short, other components of the digital economy.
Before we embarked on our path of digital transformation, Turkcell’s own journey resembles that of other operators: How do we sell more to our existing customers, and how do we grow our base? The average person in Turkey currently spends around 32 minutes per day making and receiving voice calls. We cannot increase the demand for voice calls, and competition on price had already gone about as far as the industry could support. The question, then, for us was this: how do we transition from a provider of those 32 minutes, to the provider of the complete ‘digital experience’ who is able to service more of the 1,440 minutes in a day?
The answer was ultimately quite simple: stop seeing digital offerings as merely “value-added services” on which customers spend data – the only place where the telco operator enters the value chain in the traditional model – and move into a world where we own the full digital experience by getting to know the customers’ needs better. How do they spend their time? They listen to music, they read newspapers, they use messaging platforms; these are all, now, core services for us. Our music platform fizy has more than 60% market share, our television platform TV+ has been the main engine of growth in the OTT-based TV experience in Turkey, and our file storage service lifebox is the leading option in Turkey. Today, those 32 minutes users would use us for if we hadn’t made this transition has now grown to 223 minutes: 23 minutes reading the news, 47 minutes listening to music and watching video clips, 58 minutes watching TV, and so on. Crucially, these are all open services – you don’t need to be one of our mobile subscribers to use them.
It is the depth and the breadth of these services that ultimately helped us drive the penetration of and make the case for Mobile Connect. Our customers needed to seamlessly log in to these services, and we needed to be confident that they can do so in a way that is simple, effective and worthy of their trust. With all-access services, we also needed to be able to authenticate the users coming from other operators. Mobile Connect, which we integrated to our services as “Fast Login” provided the ultimate solution.
As we built a critical mass of users and the capability to authenticate a wider base than our own mobile subscribers – and as the extremely positive customer feedback poured in – we gained the confidence to move on to the second stage: offering credentials management as a service to help the digital offering of other content and service providers. The results are impressive: today our Mobile Connect service, Fast Login, is integrated into more than 37 digital applications and services, both Turkcell and non-Turkcell. More than 25% of the users logging in with Fast Login are the subscribers of other operators, contributing to the appeal of our credentials management systems for merchants who need to serve customers of all operators.
So why are we so convinced of this? What comparative advantage can Mobile Connect claim? From the merchant’s point of view, as soon as the customer logs in using Mobile Connect, they can establish that person’s credit score as part of the service, which they couldn’t with a third-party service. Similarly they can verify that the customer is a real person, and the person they say they are, because they know about the processes we use to establish that when they take out a contract with us. And, with the mobile payments service, they know they can secure the payment. All of these they can avoid paying for through costly registration processes, because we’re in a position to assure them as a matter of course, as a result of our core business. That’s a serious value proposition from us, and at little extra cost.
For the customer, it’s about convenience and trust. Convenience because there’s no user IDs and passwords to remember, or private information to share, you just use something that’s already in your pocket. Operators also have much stricter data compliance requirements than competitor industries; and, while most consumers may not know specifically about this, they do notice the results. Research increasingly shows that consumers trust operators above alternative digital identity sources like social media channels.
Globally, the most important factor is interoperability, where Mobile Connect is without question the world leader – with the power of a highly collaborative industry behind it, Mobile Connect is already rapidly proving to be an engine driving cross-border digital trade and services. That interoperability is growing, and taking with it the demand for these services. This is where governments come in. Civic authorities are increasingly alive to what we can offer here, because their twin priorities of ensuring the security of citizens, while enhancing their prosperity, are so comprehensively addressed.
I for one hope the industry will continue to stand together behind Mobile Connect, and make this case directly to governments: we stand to oil the gears of international trade, improve the lives of end users, help to protect data security and – not least! – see returns on investment on a scale which, as an industry, we haven’t always enjoyed. This is, truly, a good time to be a telco.
Kaan Terzioglu is a Board Member of the GSMA, and the champion of the Identity Program at the GSMA Board.